Marghazar Zoo death.
THE insensitivity to the pain of others in this country is simply astounding; just as troubling is our acquiescence in a culture of violence that has claimed many victims, man and beast. While there are several safeguards whether or not they are effective is another story aimed at protecting human life, when it comes to the animal kingdom, we seem to be bereft of all humane values. Take the case of government-run zoos where this lack of compassion can truly be witnessed. Here, the animals languish until death, often untimely, overtakes them. This week, the bear at Islamabad's Marghazar Zoo died. Over the last couple of years, the facility, run by the Municipal Corporation Islamabad, has lost 15 animals including lion cubs, nilgai, zebras and an ostrich. The zoo management claimed that they died natural deaths; in the case of the bear, the city's chief metropolitan officer quoted a postmortem report that identified an intestinal tumour. The level of the zoo's disinterest in its charges can easily be gauged: the bear lived alone in a small enclosure, the elephant Kavaan has been without a mate for six years and is housed in an inadequate shelter, and the ponds for water-loving birds are dirty and full of algae. There is a vet, but he is also the deputy director of the zoo and is reportedly more focused on that job.
Yet why single out the zoo in Islamabad? Peshawar Zoo, inaugurated in February, subsequently saw a string of deaths, most of which the administration shrugged away as 'natural' deaths even though its snow leopard died in an enclosure with no air-conditioning on a day when temperatures hit 26AdegC, and a monkey was killed by a wolf placed right next to the simians' cage. Lahore Zoo's elephant Suzi died at the untimely age of 30, while Karachi Zoo's losses are similarly high. If this is the level of suffering in Pakistani zoos, it would be best to shut down such shameful facilities altogether.